Wellington Zoners Accept Changes To New Biz Hour Rules

Members of Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board signed off Wednesday on council changes to a new ordinance governing the hours of operations of businesses near residential areas.

Wellington Village Council members kicked the ordinance back to the board last week after making some modifications.

Long Range Planning Director Tim Stillings explained that council members made three changes: to have the village manager review the permit and acknowledge it in writing before approval; to allow transferability of the permit between owners with staff approval; and to include a list of standards for review to establish consistency.

The permit would affect seven to eight businesses now in operation, he said.

“If this passes, we have seven with a potential for eight businesses that would come forward [for a permit],” Stillings said. “After that, we expect one to two of these [requests] a year at most.”

Stillings explained that the village manager couldn’t technically approve the permit but could sign off before it’s approved by the growth management director.

“So it’s not an issue for the appeals process, the authorization would have to come from the growth management director,” he said. “It would be more of an acknowledgment that [the village manager] is aware the permit is going out and is in agreement with it.”

PZA Board Chair Craig Bachove said he thought it was a fair compromise.

“The village manager could turn it down and kick it back or sign off on it,” he said. “I think it’s fine that all the legwork be done by staff and presented to the village manager.”

Bachove asked whether there needed to be a backup provision for cases when the growth management director is out of the office, but Stillings said that was already handled. “There is a code in place for the chain of command,” he said.

Stillings said that council members wanted some transferability of the permits to help businesses.

“Provided that the business use was the same, the hours were the same and nothing was changed besides the ownership, it would be up to staff to determine if there was enough cause not to transfer the permit,” he said.

PZA Board Member Marcia Radosevich said she attended the council meeting but still had concerns about transferring permits. “I heard their concerns and totally understand them,” she said.

Radosevich noted that a key argument was that permits make a deal lucrative when selling a business. “Part of the value of a business is its special permits,” she said. “Would we be negatively impacting that business by making a new owner reapply for the permit?”

She still had concerns that the permit would automatically be granted without the business going through the process again.

“What if someone has a restaurant… and they’re a good citizen, and then they sell it and the person who buys it wants to turn it into a restaurant and strip joint?” Radosevich asked. “It sounds ridiculous, but we have to think about that. It’s less than 300 feet away from where kids are sleeping.”

Stillings noted that any change in a type of business would not allow for a transfer. “They would have to come before zoning to get a change on this use,” he said.

PZA Board Member Mike Drahos said he was initially against transferring permits but noted that staff would have to approve the transfer.

“It’s still giving staff the ability to vet [the new owner] from the beginning,” he said. “I think that works. You’re saying that it’s generally transferable, but if staff comes up with a compelling reason why it shouldn’t be, then they have that power.”

Stillings noted that should staff reject a transfer, it would go through the appeal process, which includes coming before the board. “The new owner could make their case,” he said.

Drahos asked that the language be amended to require that a business notify staff of a change in ownership, and that staff review the permit transfer. He also noted that the council said a transfer could be reviewed prior to purchase of the business.

“If someone was interested in purchasing a business but wanted to be sure they’d have the extended hours, they could request a review before purchasing,” Drahos said.

Stillings added that the council wanted some more definitive review criteria that would provide more consistency in the final decision regarding the permits. Included in the standards are the type of business, the size, separation from homes, loading areas, parking, lighting, noise mitigation measures and more.

Radosevich said she agreed with all the standards.

“I think this was a great addition,” she said. “It really helps focus staff, and gives residents an idea what will be taken into account as staff considers approval of the permits.”

She asked whether any residents had been consulted on the matter. “In our zeal to be business-friendly, we don’t forget that we represent residents,” Radosevich said. “We are making a radical change, as was evidenced by how hard this was. Residents who live within 300 feet are now not as protected as they were.”

But Stillings said he thought residents had more protection now.

“This has been going on without regulation to start with,” he said. “This was done to add regulations and procedures. What I think we’ve done is catered to businesses but also added protections for the residents.”

PZA Board Vice Chair Tim Shields made a motion to recommend the ordinance with amendments. It passed unanimously.

The item will go before the council for second reading and final approval in May.